Why you should hire a composer

26 Jul Why you should hire a composer

If you are a filmmaker, surely you know the saying that music (or audio) is 50% of your video, or at least should be. Although most of us agree with this statement, our effort to choose the music to accompany our images often does not match our enthusiasm for shooting them.

To me, music has a vital importance in my films. It is not a simple companion to the video, or a track to play over the clips. The right music has the ability to enhance the images, and an inappropriate composition can detract or even reduce the impact of the visuals. Choosing music is therefore fundamental, since the success of your work depends largely on it.

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In recent years, I have published dozens of self-produced videos. In the beginning, as we all did with the YouTube and Vimeo boom, I turned to songs by famous composers to include in my videos. This was a rather usual procedure at the time, but also a controversial one. Musicians complained because we, the filmmakers, used their works without permission. For quite some time both Youtube and Vimeo turned a blind eye, since these videos generated millions of visits, and that always produces a healthy income.

This all changed a few years ago when both platforms prohibited the uploading of videos whose owner did not have the legal rights to the music appearing in them. This benefited precisely the musicians and composers, who up to now saw their rights repeatedly violated and could hardly generate income from the sale of their tracks. While the big stars did not care much about the previous situation, small creators or emerging musicians were suffering quite a lot of damage.

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In the light of the new situation, most filmmakers began to use stock music, which has quite competitive prices, but in most cases lacks the quality of great composers.
It was proving to be difficult to find music on stock websites. Herein lies the main reason that I have been hiring composers to work exclusively for my films for the last few years.

It often happens that different filmmakers licence the same track, and use it to accompany similar footage, which results in uniform-looking and -sounding films. This is something that cannot and will not happen to you if you hire a composer. After agreeing on the terms, you can obtain the exclusive rights for the composition, determine exclusivity for a certain period of time, or another type of restriction regarding the license. This will also make selling your short film much simpler – since you already have the rights to the music, you will not have to pay a license extension should a company want to license your work.

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I believe that the main reason that every filmmaker who appreciates their work, whether it be a short, a time-lapse or a feature film, must hire a composer is because only the close collaboration between director and composer will create the perfect synergy between images and music. The right composer will be able to see what you want to communicate or express through your images, and they will compose an exclusive piece that adapts precisely to your film, generating in the viewer a feeling of perfect synchronicity and balance.

On the other hand, it is certainly a longer and more complicated process, the deadlines are longer, and if the composer does not reside in your country, as is often the case, the number of emails and different track versions can be overwhelming. The feeling of controlling the whole process while being part of the musical creation, however, absolutely deserves the effort.

In my last time-lapse, I wanted to use real instruments instead of the computer-generated orchestra, so we hired a violinist and a cellist and recorded it in a professional sound studio. This has not only increased the quality of the sound, but coloured the music with a special character and emotion, thanks to the talent of the musicians. I think anyone who sees my videos perceives the “something special” to the soundtrack – the sound being quite good and integrating perfectly with the image. This, to me, confirms that hiring a composer is a great idea and deserves the effort.

Australis from Enrique Pacheco on Vimeo.